By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A racially tinged food fight

Romenesko has got a few links up on a simmering controversy over the devastation in New Orleans. When hungry people grab food from abandoned grocery stores, are they responding rationally to unusual circumstances? Or are they looting?

Incredibly, this Boing Boing item suggests that the difference in at least one case may depend on whether the person is white or black: a white couple is described as “finding” food, whereas a black man had apparently grabbed his goodie bag by “looting” a store. As you will see, the two pictures are remarkably alike.

Yes, we’re talking about two different news agencies, and as the item itself notes, we have no way of knowing whether there were circumstances that might justify such labeling. But it’s hard to disagree with Romenesko letter-writer Christina Pazzanese, who says, “Perhaps these photos will stimulate a media ‘gut check’ as we race to tell the stories of the thousands who lost their lives and livelihoods.”

Last night I was watching CNN when I saw some folks – I don’t remember their race – described as “looters.” They were walking out of an abandoned grocery store with what appeared to be food and other essentials. (And yes, I realize there is real looting going on, too, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) What’s happening in New Orleans is horrible, and is likely to get worse. Editors need to stop and think about how they describe people who find themselves in a desperate situation.

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Mustard with that?


More on race and the hurricane


  1. Steve

    Yes.When people coming out of a drug store with diapers and water are described as “looters” it made me go HUH?People taking TV sets from appliance stores are looters. People taking food and water and necessities are just trying to survive.

  2. Anonymous

    Ever the apologist and race-baiter.Why do we know in advance you’d post things like this, Dan??There are a lot of mor pressing issues oin the plate right now, including prosecuting and arresting those involved in taking ANYTHING they didn’t pay for but here you are lookiing for racial dicrimination.This is utter divisive BS.First of all, they were not taking FOOD, as you are trying unsuccessfully to do, but most were shown on video taking non-edible items. a TV and clothing and toothpast does not make for a great lunch.I saw whites, blacks and hispanics looting. No excuse for ANY. I can see how food might give a good enough excuse but a lot of decent people wouldn’t even go that far. This was happening right after the storm so a lot of people would have still had hope at that point that help is whithin reach. Now a few days later and with the administration’s poor poor job handling this as if it were no urgent matter, there is more justification if you are struggling to find one to grab food and sanitary items.But right after the storm, breaking in shut door fronts and helpig yourself to everything you can lay your hand on??This is BS. Your trying to cover for them and pre-empt any backlash against African-Americans.Our society does not want ANY black person singled out for any reason, any pretex, ANYTIME. There are and always be racist morns among us. That is just inevitable in ANY society, any race around the world. There are tons of ingrained biases behaviors that are hard to 100% shake off.But the way to advance our African Americans’ lives is not by playing the victim card on their behalf. You are making a wishwashy left-wingy mockery of their lives and prospects.Looters should be shamed whether they are white, black or purple.Stop with this cr@p. This coddling is just unbearable and you are not helping those people commiting such CRIMES get over the hump, leave their biases and fears behind and forge ahead with a healthy new life. You want them to be protected as they are now so you have a job coddling to them.This is pitiful and utterly UNHELPFUL in ANY dimension.

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